Rocks have been an ally and historical partner of Hyderabad

Dr Oudesh Rani Bawa’s dense and interesting knowledge of the city enriched our research for the documentary on the rocks of Hyderabad and, specifically, also spoke to our agenda in the film to conjoin the unfolding physical and human geography of the city: to locate the issues of the rocks within the larger picture of Hyderabad itself.

Oudeshji writes a column in the Munsif every Thursday on Hyderabad, and is passionately informed about myriad aspects of Hyderabad’s geography, its rock rich-lake filled landscape, its history, its celebrated tehzeeb, the growth of its cosmopolitan communities, its secular traditions, and, most of all, its unique Dakkhani language. We delighted in Dakkhani speech as she read and interpreted many Hyderabadi poets for us.

Describing the mammoth Ekshila (single stone) rock of Warangal and Bhongir, she exclaims, “Yeh Khuda ki kudrat hai!” (It is the creator’s creation). “Rocks in this area were the natural barrier to armies from the North.” It was impossible to scale them and if any intrepid soldiers tried, they found themselves “stoned” with smaller rocks thrown down from the top! “Historically the rock was our best protection. Now cement factories have come up and ab pattharon ko peesne lage!” (they are grinding rocks into cement!)

Indeed, in the unfolding development of the city, we have displayed a stunning lack of appreciation for the manifold ways in which the rocks are our ally and historical partner. We have decimated the ecologically sound and uniquely beautiful landscape that we have been blessed with, and, in a manner that precludes any recovery of it.

Kamal Pershad Kanwal’s poetry, which Oudeshji translated for us, seems a very appropriate complex of despair and hope:

Isne kitni tabaahiyan dekhin

Iske zakhm ka kuch hisaab nahin

Bavajood iske, zamaane mein

Hyderabad ka javaab nahin

She has seen so much devastation

Her wounds are immeasurable

Despite this, in the world

Hyderabad stays incomparable

This contemporary poet’s sentiments find echo in an older Asaf Jahi poet, Raghovendra Rao ‘Jazb’, who writes within a beautiful Rubaiyat to Hyderabad’s lost glory and present possibility:

WGo bulbule gul ab nahi, gulzar to hai

Har tarah hum me, qabile izhaar to hai

Those flowers do not remain, but spring still remains

In every way, our ability to speak still remains

The lines are an inspiring call to action!

Rocks have always been tied up with our sense of Hyderabad. It is foolish to lose them as an ally and an asset.

They define so much of the Hyderbadi sensibility, they infuse our speech and nomenclature, they have been protectors, they perform invaluable ecological functions, they render our city uniquely beautiful and unforgettable.

Over time they have been sheltered in all our different places of worship by all communities. It is only today that they are under threat because of rapacious, hazardous and ugly overbuilding of the city. We must heed the poet and speak out for them to be included in a sensible plan for developing our city.

We must develop and move ahead with the times, in tandem with landscape companions who have been with us through all of our human history, who have inhabited the earth so much longer than us.

(Uma Magal is a documentary film maker, writer and teacher)